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Looking for an investment opportunity? Just send me $100 and …

Kidding, just kidding. There is an investment opportunity though, Moleskine, maker of creamy-papered notebooks with a pocket in the back and an elastic band around the covers, is going public on April 3rd (via The Browser). The article includes the 771-page prospectus and links to the banks you can send your money to in order to buy stock. I won’t be making a stock purchase, but the article provides a short history of the company and is it ever fascinating.

I’ve been told the pronunciation of Moleskine is “mole-SKEEN” but apparently the company says you can pronounce it any way you want including “mole-ay-SKEEN-ay,” which kind of tickles my fancy since the company that makes the notebook is Italian and that pronunciation sounds like and American trying to sound Italian.

Anyone who owns a Moleskine knows the origin of the notebook because they have a little history card in them. First made by Paris bookbinders in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the notebooks were popular with the creative crowd. Picasso, Hemingway, and others supposedly used them. But they weren’t called Moleskines then. The term was first applied to them by Bruce Chatwin in his 1986 novel The Songlines. Then in 1997, Modo & Modo, a Milanese stationer, began producing the notebooks and called them Moleskine. The company was bought by a French bank in 2006 and later received further investment from two private equity firms.

If you have ever fallen for a Moleskine notebook, you know they aren’t cheap. The company markets them as a luxury item and the markup on them is large since paper, while more costly than it used to be, is still pretty inexpensive. But Moleskine isn’t selling notebooks. In their prospectus they say they are really selling identity and culture.

Think about that for a minute.

I’ve got two Moleskines, one I have used, one I have not yet used. It is a delight to write in, the paper likes fountain pen ink, it’s smooth and has a nice weight. I could get other notebooks with nice paper for less than a Moleskine. So why buy it? Speaking for myself, I got suckered into the “I’m using a notebook loved by famous writers” romance. Because, you know, if I use the same kind of notebook Hemingway wrote in maybe I will be a better writer. Heck maybe I could dare to claim the title of writer with the Moleskine as my badge whether or not I’m any good at it. There is also a touch of the exotic and adventurous travel attached to the notebook. The adventurous travel associations are probably why Moleskine has begun opening little stores, mostly in airports. Heading off on a holiday I know if I saw a Moleskine store at my airport I would totally buy a small notebook to use as a travel diary even though I already had some other notebook in my bag.

I am not, however, loyal to any one brand of notebook. I like the Moleskine but I’m always on the lookout for something else to try. In fact, I am about to begin writing in a Clairfontaine notebook the wonderful Smithereens sent me. And I still have my eye on a Leuchtturm 1917. So many notebooks to try!

Still there are many Moleskine fans. If you have some extra cash, the company might not be such a bad investment.

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